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Posts Tagged ‘superhero’

Superheroes are coming in all shapes and sizes these days. Here’s an Afghan wheelchair-bound superhero created by a teen born in Afghanistan. Once an admirer of anti-Taliban warlords, he found Gandhi and Mandela a revelation and wants kids to know about nonviolent superpower.

Cristina Quinn reports at Public Radio International, “Mohammad Sayed is unstoppable. At the age of 19, he is already an inventor and entrepreneur. One half of his business, called RimPower, is providing assistive technologies. The other half is a comic book series centered around the hero Wheelchair Man.

” ‘My goal is to help people in wheelchair[s] both psychologically and physically,’ he says. ‘A world where every wheelchair user is empowered rather than disabled.’

“Sayed, who goes by ‘Mo,’ knows firsthand what that’s all about. At age 5, he suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury when his home in Afghanistan was bombed. …

“He spent seven years in a trauma hospital because he had nowhere else to go. To survive, he became a hustler, wheeling around the ward working odd jobs — repairing staffers’ cellphones and taking pictures for photo IDs. He even taught himself English by listening to the BBC — and charged for translation. …

“He never gave up. Even when the hospital staff eventually had to evacuate, leaving him alone with just a few guards. …

“His luck would change six months later, when Maria Pia-Sanchez, an American nurse working in Afghanistan, came looking for him. A doctor who knew Sayed asked her to check on him.

“ ‘So we stopped by the hospital where he had been living to see if anyone was there and if they knew where he was,’ Pia-Sanchez says. … Even though Sayed was so young, Pia-Sanchez says he was entrusted with many things in the hospital that the older staff were not. …

“ ‘Even though that life has ended for me, you know, you will never feel certain,’ the teenager says. ‘These are the kinds of things that stay with you. But what defines us as humans is that some of us don’t give in.’

“His idea of not giving in started to shift when he learned about Mahatma Gandhi. That was his introduction to using non-violence as a weapon, and the whole concept blew his mind.

“ ‘Before learning about Gandhi, my role models were warlords,’ Sayed says. …

“Those warlords were replaced with Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. But in the pantheon of heroes, there was still a piece missing. And it wasn’t until Sayed attended Comic-Con in Boston a couple years ago that everything came into full focus. …

“ ‘At Boston Comic-Con, I was like, why is there nobody representing the wheelchair community? Why isn’t there a wheelchair superhero wheeling around here?”

“So he set out to make Wheelchair Man, an Afghan-American superhero who, upon making eye contact, shows a would-be criminal the consequences of his actions before he commits them. That’s his power.”

More here.

Illustration: Mohammad Sayed
Afghan wheelchair-bound superhero created by Mohammad Sayed.

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G. Willow Wilson, a convert to Islam, has created a female Muslim superhero for both educational and entertainment purposes. Abraham Riesman interviewed her at Vulture.com.

“G. Willow Wilson,” he writes, “has done something even Superman never bothered to do: create a female Muslim superhero and turn her into an overnight marketing sensation.

“Wilson writes Ms. Marvel, a monthly Marvel Comics series that debuted in February. It stars Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old child of Pakistani immigrants living in Jersey City …

“Kamala is a hero in the Peter Parker tradition: dweeby, self-doubting, unpopular. Like so many of today’s teen geeks, she spends her nights resenting her parents and writing fan fiction for online forums. A bizarre incident leaves Kamala with shapeshifting powers. …

“Born in New Jersey herself, Wilson was a white kid with no religious upbringing, but converted to Islam during the height of the War on Terror. She’s lived in Egypt, done foreign correspondence for the New York Times, penned a memoir, written an acclaimed novel, and labored in relative obscurity within the mainstream comics industry for years.”

Riesman asks Wilson, “What’s unique about writing a female Muslim superhero in 2014, as opposed to 10 or 20 years ago?”

Her response: “If we had written Ms. Marvel ten years ago, Kamala’s religion would probably have to be an even bigger part of the conversation than it is today, because closer to 9/11, there was a lot more scrutiny placed on the actions of everyday American Muslims. But today, now that there’s a bit of distance — particularly for the younger generation, for whom 9/11 happened when they were small children — there’s a greater desire to see more well-rounded stories. Being a Muslim is really only one part of her overall arc, her overall journey. …

“I write about real life as it is lived by the young American Muslim women that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting throughout the course of my travels as a writer and being able to speak in different places and meet different people at signings and things.”

Read more at Vulture, here, where you can also see a few panels from the comic strip.

Photo: Vulture

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She’s a mild-mannered school teacher in Pakistan — unless education for girls is threatened, and then, watch out! She’s the Burka Avenger!

Salman Masood and Declan Walsh have the story at the NY Times: “Cartoon fans in Pakistan have been excited by the arrival of the country’s first caped crusader, in the form of a female superhero who flies through the air, battling villains using pens and books.

“The heroine, Burka Avenger, is certainly an unusual role model for female empowerment in Pakistan: a woman who uses martial arts to battle colorful villains …

“But the cartoon, in which a demure schoolteacher, Jiya, transforms into the action heroine by donning a burqa, or traditional cloak, has also triggered an awkward debate about her costume.

“ ‘Is it right to take the burqa and make it look “cool” for children, to brainwash girls into thinking that a burqa gives you power instead of taking it away from you?” asked the novelist and commentator Bina Shah in a blog post.

“The criticism has not overshadowed the broader welcome that Burka Avenger, which aired [in Islamabad] for the first time on Sunday evening, has received. With slick computer animation, fast-paced action and flashes of humor that even adults can appreciate, the character could offer Pakistanis a new cultural icon akin to Wonder Woman in the United States.”

And she is generating some thoughtful discussions about the role of girls and women and the importance of education for girls.  The show’s maker, pop star Aaron Haroon Rashid, points out that the burka is merely the heroine’s disguise.

(An excellent disguise indeed, used effectively by the playwright Tony Kushner in Homebody/Kabul, about a Western woman who leaves home and disappears in Afghanistan.)

Read more about the cartoon show here.

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Author-illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka knows the power of a kind word. He found his calling largely because of two words from a children’s book author who visited his elementary school class.

And he got through a difficult childhood nourished on the kindness of strangers, including lunch ladies, an unjustly maligned species he has honored in a superhero series. (“Serving justice! And serving lunch!)

Linda Matchan has a lovely story at the Boston Globe about Krosoczka.  (I want to call your attention to how nicely she describes him, here: “with impossibly spiky hair that looks as though he penciled it in himself.”)

“Until recently,” writes Matchan, “Krosoczka was very guarded about his childhood. That changed last October when he got a call from the organizer of a TEDx program at Hampshire College, modeled after the TED Talks series. …

“Scrambling for a topic, his wife urged him to talk candidly about his childhood. With no time to come up with other options, he delivered a moving talk about his early years and the people who inspired and encouraged him. The talk caught the attention of the TED editorial team, which featured it in January on TED.com.

“He spoke in his talk about his mother — ‘the most talented artist I knew’ — who was addicted to heroin and often incarcerated. ‘When your parent is a drug addict it’s kind of like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football … Every time you open your heart, you end up on your back.’ …

“Third grade was the year something ‘monumental’ happened. Children’s book author Jack Gantos came to his school to talk about what he did for a living. He wandered into the classroom where Krosoczka was drawing, stopped at Krosoczka’s desk and studied his picture.

“ ‘Nice cat,’ Gantos said.

“ ‘Two words,’ said Krosoczka, ‘that made a colossal difference in my life.’ ”

More.

Photo: Bill Greene
Jarrett Krosoczka declared May 3 (his favorite lunch lady’s birthday) “School Lunch Superhero Day.”

Author-illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka knows the power of a kind word. He found his calling largely because of two words from a children’s book author who visited his elementary school class.
And he got through a difficult childhood nourished on the kindness of strangers, including lunch ladies, an unjustly maligned species he has honored in a superhero series. (“Serving justice! And serving lunch!)
Linda Matchan has a lovely story at the Boston Globe about Krosoczka.  (I want to call your attention to how nicely she describes him, here: “with impossibly spiky hair that looks as though he penciled it in himself.”)
“Until recently,” writes Matchan, “Krosoczka was very guarded about his childhood. That changed last October when he got a call from the organizer of a TEDx program at Hampshire College, modeled after the TED Talks series. …
“Scrambling for a topic, his wife urged him to talk candidly about his childhood. With no time to come up with other options, he delivered a moving talk about his early years and the people who inspired and encouraged him. The talk caught the attention of the TED editorial team, which featured it in January on TED.com.
“He spoke in his talk about his mother — ‘the most talented artist I knew’ — who was addicted to heroin and often incarcerated. ‘When your parent is a drug addict it’s kind of like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football … Every time you open your heart, you end up on your back.’ …
“Third grade was the year something ‘monumental’ happened. Children’s book author Jack Gantos came to his school to talk about what he did for a living. He wandered into the classroom where Krosoczka was drawing, stopped at Krosoczka’s desk and studied his picture.
“ ‘Nice cat,’ Gantos said.
“ ‘Two words,’ said Krosoczka, ‘that made a colossal difference in my life.’ ”

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